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Dozen top students to lead SHHS graduation exercises Friday

 

June 9, 2021

SHHS CLASS OF 2021 graduation leaders include, in front, from left, valedictorians Maren Weld, Treyson Smith, Savannah Hutchins, Natalie Rodgers and Esther Ramsey. In the rear, from left, are valedictorians Sicily Neuschwander, Kailey James, Olivia Martineau, salutatorian Owen Towry, and valedictorian Alashawnee Ragudo. Not pictured are Alex Murray and Kyle Murray.

Twelve Sweet Home High School seniors have been named named to lead graduation exercises this Friday, June 11, at Husky Field (see accompanying story).

Valedictorians, all of whom finished with perfect GPA's are: Savannah Hutchins, Kailey James, Olivia Martineau, Alex Murray, Kyle Murray, Sicily Neuschwander, Alashawnee Ragudo, Esther Ramsey, Natalie Rodgers, Treyson Smith and Maren Weld. Owen Towry will be the sole salutatorian.

This is the highest number of valedictorians Sweet Home High School has had since at least 2000.

The Class of 2021 has produced some exceptional students, said Chris Hiassen, assistant principal. She noted that this group all had maintained perfect 4.00 GPS's going into the COVID pandemic, and held on through the months of chaos that have followed.

The high number of high achievers is likely due to their numbers, she said.

"Generally, with that many high-performing students, they drive themselves. I think with or without COVID, they would have done well."

To qualify to be a valedictorian, a student must earn an honors diploma, which requires advanced classes in science, math, English and social sciences.

"They always have to do advanced math in their senior year," Hiassen said. "Some were still taking advanced classes, like chemistry, through Linn-Benton Community College, and because they had shorter periods, they had to do more to maintain those.

"The perception that students just take the easiest classes to get a 4 point is just not true. It's not a gimme at all."

Here are capsules of the students' high school careers and their plans for the future, along with advice they offer for those who want to do well in high school:

Savannah Hutchins

Savannah Hutchins, 18, is the daughter of Mary and David Hutchins. She has a sister, Samantha, who is 21.

During high school, Hutchins was active in volleyball and softball, playing four years on varsity for both sports. She was a member of the Huskies' 2021 volleyball team, which won Sweet Home's first-ever state championship in the sport. Hutchins earned a 4.0 GPA.

In her free time, Hutchins enjoys being in the outdoors.

Looking back on her high school career, Hutchins says "all the memories I've made with my friends are the ones I'll cherish forever."

Her favorite class was PE, "because I love to work out and participate in sports."

Her advice to incoming freshmen would be to "enjoy every moment of high school. It goes by a lot faster than you think."

She said that the most important thing she learned during high school was "how to be a good leader, and to respect my classmates."

If she could have done anything differently, Hutchins said, she would have taken a couple more "fun" classes.

Hutchins plans on attending Linn-Benton Community College to study exercise and sports science and wants to pursue a career in physical therapy. She will also play volleyball for the Roadrunners.

Kailey James

Kailey James, 18, is the daughter of Cara and Gregg James. Her siblings are Isaac Denbo, 23, Phoebe Denbo, 22, Zoe Denbo, 21, Nich James, 19, Claire James, 16, Ryan James, 12, Audrey Lippert, 9, and Benjamin Wright, 1.

In high school James was active in track and field, Key Club, soccer, and Peer Court. She was Freshman Girl of the Year and Homecoming Queen, and earned a 4.0 GPA.

In her free time, James enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and friends, swimming at the lake, long boarding, and watching "Narcos" on Netflix.

She says her favorite high school memories were painting the senior rock and an outdoor school field trip to the Oregon State University climbing course.

Her favorite classes were history courses, because she loved the in-depth and engaging discussions, she said.

James said if she could change anything about her time at the high school, she would have gone to bed earlier.

Her advice to incoming freshmen is to "try as many new things as you can. Go out for a new sport, take the tough class, push yourself, join the clubs, and believe that you will be OK even if you fail."

James said the most important thing she learned in high school was "the kind of person I want to be. Once you understand what you're working towards, nobody else can tell you that you're not doing well because it's your own goal."

James plans on attending Willamette University to study for a doctorate in law, and go on to start her own law practice and become a judge.

Alex Murray

Alex Murray, 17, is the son of Julie and Bryan Murray. His siblings are Samuel, 21, Joshua, 20, and Kyle, 17.

During high school, he was active in Computer Club, and earned a 4.0 GPA.

In his free time, he enjoys reading and games.

He said his favorite memory at the high school was from cooking class.

"We spent a long time making bread. My brother and I took our share home and made cinnamon toast."

Murray said his favorite class was college-prep chemistry.

"Dr. (Harrison) Neil is really nice and likes to give challenging problems on tests," he said.

His advice to incoming freshmen would be, "If you have trouble with your grades, talk with your teachers during lunch. Most of the teachers here are understanding and will help you get the grade if you put forth the effort."

The most important lesson Murray said he's learned from Sweet Home High School was that "If you commit to something, you can do it."

He said if he could do anything differently, he would have "put more effort into my classes during my sophomore and junior years."

He plans on studying computer science at Linn-Benton Community College and Oregon State University.

Kyle Murray

Kyle Murray, 17, is the son of Bryan and Julie Murray. He has three siblings, Samuel, 21, Joshua, 20, and Alex, 17.

During high school, he was active in Game Club, and earned a 4.0 GPA. In his free time, he enjoys reading books.

His favorite high school memory is playing a cooperative game called Artemis with several other students in Game Club.

He said his favorite subject is science, because he has a natural inclination towards it.

His advice to incoming freshmen would be to "do the work," and he said the most important thing he learned at Sweet Home High School was work ethic.

Murray plans on becoming an electrician, and in the event that that doesn't pan out, he plans on going to college, he said.

Sicily Neuschwander

Sicily Neuschwander, 18, is the daughter of Floyd and Leena Ellis Neuschwander. She has a sister, Madelyn, who is 20.

During high school, Neusch-wander was active in soccer, cross country, wrestling, track and field, and Key Club. She was the student body vice-president and cross country team captain, and earned a 4.0 GPA.

In her free time, Neuschwander likes to play sports, read, and spend time with her dog and friends.

She said that being on the wrestling and cross country teams were always her favorite parts of the year.

Neuschwander said she enjoys history courses. "I really like history and learning about the past to give myself some insight," she said.

"I also love chemistry because it's just really fun to learn about, even though it's a difficult subject," she added.

Neuschwander's advice to freshmen would be to "get involved, do a sport or a club. Get involved in spirit weeks and events and just make the most of all the little fun things while they last."

Looking back on her time at the high school, Neuschwander said "I learned so much about friends and relationships in my time here at the school, and from participating in sports as well."

She said if she could do one thing differently, she would take it slower, do less clubs and activities, and "just enjoy the little things while I could."

Neuschwander plans on attending the University of Oregon to study psychology, and then go on to law school.

Olivia Martineau

Olivia Martineau, 18, is the daughter of Aaron and Shelly Martineau. Her siblings are Sam, 15, Emerson, 13, Mack, 9, and Henry, 5.

In high school, she was active in soccer, swim, and choir. She was a three-year letter winner in soccer and a two-year letter winner in swimming, and earned a 4.0 GPA.

In her free time, Martineau enjoys painting, cooking and reading.

Her favorite class at the high school was biology. "Everything about it is very interesting to me," she said.

Her advice to incoming freshmen would be to "not be afraid of new experiences. Take all the opportunities you can to try new things."

Martineau said that she "learned a lot about community while at Sweet Home High School. It has been so cool having such an awesome support group of classmates."

She said that if she could change something about her time at the high school, she would participate more.

"I feel like there's so many things I missed out on because I didn't realize that the opportunity was there," she said.

She plans to attend BYU Idaho and major in graphic design.

Alashawnee Ragudo

Alashawnee Ragudo, 17, is the daughter of Brooke Carl and Ty Kaauwai-Ragudo. Her siblings are Kaianu, 10, and Teegan, 8.

During high school, Ragudo was active in Health Occupations, Ski and Ride, and Josai clubs. She earned a 4.0 GPA.

When she's not studying, she enjoys painting and hanging out with friends and family. Her favorite high school memory is volunteering at the Oregon Jamboree with friends.

Her favorite class at the high school was anatomy and physiology "because I had a great teacher and I learned a lot from that class," she said.

Ragudo's advice to incoming freshmen is to "enjoy every moment. It goes by faster than you think."

Ragudo said if she could change one thing about her time at the high school, it would be "to stop worrying so much about the future, and live in the moment."

She said she has learned that "no matter how difficult or challenging you think something is, you can always get through it with determination and focus."

Ragudo plans to attend Linn-Benton Community College and major in nursing.

Esther Ramsey

Esther Ramsey, 17, is the daughter of Lonnie Ramsey and Bessie Ramsey, and Mindy Vincent and Paul Vincent. Her siblings are Alice, 19, Jonathan, 14, Elijah Vincent, Joseph Vincent, 12, Samuel, 12, and Benjamin, 10.

During her time in high school, she was active in band, soccer and theater, and earned a 4.0 GPA.

In her free time, Ramsey enjoys soccer, painting and drawing, and playing music.

Her favorite high school memories are the bus rides back from soccer games, when her teammates and she would all sit and talk.

Her favorite class was band, "because it was always a fun time. Everyone was very accepting and we were like a giant family."

Her advice to incoming freshmen would be to "not be afraid to be themselves," and she said the most important thing she learned at the high school was to be herself.

Ramsey said that if she could change one thing about her high school experience, she would have socialized more in the beginning of it and got involved with school activities.

Ramsey plans on attending the University of Oregon and pursuing a career in education.

Natalie Rodgers

Natalie Rodgers, 18, is the daughter of Ron and Kyonga Rodgers. She has a brother, Nick, who is 23.

During high school, Rodgers was active in soccer, basketball, track, Key Club, and Rotary Club. She was named the MVP of the basketball and soccer team, and earned a 4.0 GPA.

In her free time, Rodgers enjoys playing sports, spending time with friends, and playing guitar. Her favorite high school memories are winning May Week her senior year, senior skip day, and the class "really coming together to support each other."

Though her favorite subject was math, her favorite class was business teacher Ammon Mills' product design class "because we could make clothing, stickers, 3D print things, use a laser cutting machine, and so much more."

She said Mills helped her start her own small clothing business.

Rodgers' advice for incoming freshmen is to "get involved in as many activities as possible and completely be yourself. High school goes by so fast so make a ton of memories and cherish them."

Rodgers' two major takeaways from high school are to "spread kindness," and that "hard work and dedication lead to success."

She said if she could change one thing about her time at the high school, she would get involved in even more activities and clubs and meet new people.

Rodgers plans on attending Oregon State University to pursue aerospace engineering.

Treyson Smith

Treyson Smith, 18, is the son of Kayla Davis and Micah Smith. His siblings are Steen Davis, 23, Ellie Davis, 21, Ellison Smith, 12, and Weston Smith, 7.

During high school, Smith was active in wrestling, cross country, baseball, and Class Board. He was Freshman Boy of the Year, placed at state in wrestling multiple times, captained the cross-country team, and earned a 4.0 GPA.

In his free time, Smith enjoys working out, playing video games, and fishing.

His favorite high school memory is beating the seniors in He-Man Volleyball his junior year.

His favorite subject was math.

"It was rewarding," he said. "I can spend an hour on a problem, but once I get that answer it's so relieving and satisfying."

Smith's advice to incoming freshmen would be to "relax."

"Don't take yourself too seriously," he said. "Have some fun, try hard in school, and be involved with everything you can."

Looking back on his time at the high school, Smith said "communities can become families. That's what happens at Sweet Home. Everyone cares about you, and the teachers are willing to help."

Smith said he plans on obtaining an electrical and computer engineering-degree from Oregon State University.

Maren Weld

Maren Weld, 17, is the daughter of Scott and Lisa Weld. Her siblings are Sten, 25, and Milah, 21.

During high school, Weld was active in soccer, swimming, golf, Key Club, and Class Board, and earned a 4.0 GPA.

In her free time, she enjoys playing piano and guitar.

Her favorite high school memory is of May Week this year. She got to ride in the chariot for the senior class, which made a dramatic back-to-front-of-the-pack move to victory in the annual Track Meet.

Her favorite class was anatomy and physiology.

"It was one of the most interesting classes I have taken and it's one of the reasons that I am planning on becoming a nurse," she said.

Her advice to freshmen would be to "join clubs and sports, and take classes you wouldn't normally take."

"Be involved. You will not regret it," she said. "Dedicate your time and effort to your school work and it will pay off."

At the high school, Weld said "I have learned how to problem solve, time manage, and delegate tasks. Those things will help me for the rest of my life."

Weld plans to attend the University of North Dakota to earn a bachelor's of science in nursing.

Owen Towry

Owen Towry, 18, is the son of Ray and Shannon Towry. His siblings are Makayla, 22, Katelynn, 21, and Evan, 16.

During his time at the high school, Towry was active in basketball, football and class board, and earned a 3.99 GPA.

Towry enjoys spending his free time playing sports, lifting weights and hanging out with friends.

His favorite high school memory was watching teacher Ryan Adams fall off a hoverboard.

Towry's favorite subject is history, and he said he really enjoyed being in social science teachers Jim Costa and Alain Brown's classes.

Towry advises incoming freshmen to "find something other than school work to fill your free time, get involved with friends in whatever activities you enjoy and don't be afraid to try new ones."

He said that "the most important thing I've learned from Sweet Home is to always be open to new ideas and opportunities."

Towry plans on attending Chemeketa Community College to study fire science and become a firefighter/EMT.

 
 

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